We did not substantiate the allegations that the DEA misused Fee Account funds for non-diversion control activities from FY 2004 through FY 2007. In reaching this conclusion, we reviewed a statistical sample of obligations $500 and under in three field divisions as well as a subjective sample of obligations over $500 for spending Fee Account funds and found that all the obligations were for legitimate diversion control activities. In addition, interviews with DEA personnel and documents pertaining to the use and availability of Fee Account funds did not substantiate the allegations that the DEA had used Fee Account funds for non-diversion control activities.
Moreover, while the DEA had restricted diversion–related overtime, travel, and other related expenses, we determined that the DEA had legitimate reasons for these restrictions. We found that the DEA restricted the use of Fee Account funds for these purposes because of a delayed collection of registration fees and because funds were needed to cover the settlement of an overtime lawsuit. Although the DEA imposed restrictions on purchases of equipment, travel expenses not related to investigations, and overtime, our interviews in the three field divisions we visited indicated that these restrictions did not undermine diversion control operations. The allegations also stated that the DEA did not hire additional Diversion Investigators because of a lack of Fee Account funds. We found that the DEA’s reason for not hiring new Diversion Investigators – that it was awaiting an Office of Personnel Management decision on reclassifying the Diversion Investigator position – was reasonable.
However, many Diversion Investigators we interviewed perceived that Fee Account funds were being used inappropriately. We believe that DEA’s recent policy of using more Special Agents and Intelligence Analysts within the Diversion Control Program, combined with an inaccurate understanding of how the DEA can use the Fee Account, contributed to the Diversion Investigators’ misperception.
We also concluded that for FY 2006 and FY 2007, the DEA did not fund all Diversion Control Program activities through the Fee Account. We identified an estimated $15.4 million in salary costs for Special Agents and Chemists between FY 2006 and FY 2007 attributable to criminal diversion investigations that were not included in the program’s current budget and were not paid with Fee Account funds.
As a result of our review, we recommend that the DEA:
Determine the total of actual and planned program costs, including salary costs attributable to diversion control activities, especially for Special Agents, Intelligence Analysts, and Chemists, and include these costs in the Diversion Control Program’s budget from this point forward.
Provide more information to DEA personnel on the requirements governing the use of Fee Account funds, particularly for salary and other associated costs of Special Agents and Intelligence Analysts.